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March 6, 2007

You don’t snooze, you lose:
U-M sleep experts offer tips for Daylight Saving Time shift

Get ready for “spring forward” day, and get better sleep every day

ANN ARBOR, MI – This coming Sunday morning, a lot of brains will be thrown out of whack, as the clocks shift forward by an hour in the earliest-ever return to Daylight Saving Time (DST).

Sleep ImageEven though the clock will say 8 a.m., it will feel like 7 a.m. to our brains and bodies – and that will leave many people feeling groggy or “not quite right” for a day or more. The Monday morning commute on the day after DST starts is especially hard, and is associated with a spike in sleepy-driving crashes.

Fortunately, there’s still time to reduce the impact that this time shift will have on you, say experts from the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center. Starting a few days before the time shift, start heading to bed a little earlier each night – even 15 minutes earlier for three days can start to make a difference. And, set your alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier, too.

Then, set your clock ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday, and wake up at your “regular” time on Sunday morning. Don’t sleep in just because the clocks have changed! In fact, sleeping late on weekends isn’t a good idea any time of the year.

Making a gradual adjustment in this way will lessen the disjointed feeling that comes with losing or gaining an hour, whether it’s because of the twice-a-year time shift or travel to another time zone, says Todd Arnedt, Ph.D. He’s a sleep psychologist who heads the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the U-M Sleep Disorders Center, which offers treatment without medication for people with certain types of sleep disorders. He’s also a researcher with the U-M Depression Center’s Sleep & Chronophysiology Laboratory, which studies the relationship between sleep/wake cycles and depression.

Women are especially likely to develop insomnia or other irregular sleeping patterns. This week, two other U-M sleep experts presented at a conference in Washington, D.C. on sleep and women, sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation. Roseanne Armitage, Ph.D., director of the Sleep & Chronophysiology Lab, presented findings from her research on how women’s natural sleep rhythms differ from men’s, the role of women’s hormones in sleep patterns, and the impact these can have on brain health. Flavia Consens, M.D., associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center, spoke on narcolepsy in women, a relatively uncommon but serious problem.

Meanwhile, the U-M Sleep Disorders Center recently opened a new location where people who have sleep problems of any kind can stay overnight and have intensive testing to help diagnose their specific problem and guide their treatment. Located in the Med Inn building at the U-M Health System’s main campus, the nine-bed facility replaces one formerly located in the main University Hospital. It complements the center’s other nine-bed location on South State Street.

Ron ChervinThe center’s director, Ronald Chervin, M.D., M.S., notes that this week has been designated Sleep Awareness Week by the National Sleep Foundation, and encourages anyone who has been having trouble sleeping to visit the NSF’s web site, www.sleepfoundation.org, for information and tips.

The U-M team offers these tips that everyone should follow to get a good night’s sleep every night:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends
  • Avoid daytime naps or limit them to one brief (15-30 minutes) mid-afternoon nap
  • Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening and do not use it to help you sleep
  • Avoid caffeinated products (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate) after mid-afternoon
  • Eliminate tobacco use, especially close to bedtime and during the night
  • Exercise regularly during the day, but avoid evening exercise
  • Avoid using the bedroom for school work, business affairs, TV, exercise, or other activities
  • Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortable
  • Set aside 30 to 45 min­utes or more to wind down at the end of the day before going to bed.
  • If insomnia becomes chronic — when it occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more —you may want to seek medical treatment.

Some common sleep problems include:

Insomnia: People with insomnia have difficulty falling sleep, frequently wake during the night, or wake too early in the morning. This is a fairly common problem in adults; up to 1/3 of adults report periodic symptoms of insomnia and 10 to 20 percent report chronic insomnia that interferes with their daytime functioning. Interestingly, women are affected more than men, and people over 65 years of age are more likely to suffer from insomnia.

Restless Legs Syndrome: Restless legs syndrome causes an irresistible urge to move the legs often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations (e.g., creepy crawling), typically when seated for long periods of time, at night, and when trying to fall asleep. Roughly 10 percent of the population in Western countries suffers from this syndrome.

Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy affects about 0.03 percent of the population, or three in every 10,000 people. Typical features include excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (loss of muscle tone in response to intense emotion, such as laughter), sleep paralysis, and sleep-onset hallucinations. Narcolepsy is debilitating, severely interfering with work productivity and social interactions.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This condition occurs when a person’s airway partially or completely closes repeatedly during sleep for 10 seconds or longer, resulting in brief awakenings to resume breathing.  People with sleep apnea often snore loudly or experience choking arousals during the night. One of the most common consequences of obstructive sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness. About 4 percent of adult men and 2 percent of adult women suffer from sleep apnea and admit to daytime sleepiness. More people have sleep apnea but do not admit or experience sleepiness. Interestingly, 80 percent of men and 90 percent of women who have sleep apnea do not know that they have this condition. It is more common in people who are overweight, and is associated with an increased risk for vehicle crashes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

Children are also at risk of sleep apnea: At least 1 to 3 percent of children have clear sleep apnea, while up to 10 percent of children have a milder form. Children with sleep apnea perform worse in school, and it may contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and aggressive behavior. Most children with sleep apnea are not diagnosed. U-M research has suggested that removing the tonsils of children with OSA may help both their nighttime sleep and their daytime behavior.

For more information on the U-MSleepDisordersCenter, and how to receive diagnosis or treatment for sleep problems at U-M, visit their Web site. To volunteer for U-M sleep research studies, including studies at the Sleep & Chronophysiology Lab, visit the Engage Web site and search for studies using the keyword “sleep.”

Written by Kara Gavin

 

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